1851 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Caroline Norton

David Macbeth Moir, in Sketches of the Poetical Literature of the Past Half-Century (1851; 1852) 279-80.



The artless simplicity of Mary Howitt is at direct antipodes to the stately elaboration of Mrs. Norton: not that the author of The Child of the Islands, and The Dream, is an artificial writer, but that her sketches from nature, as well as of life and character, are of a kind totally dissimilar. Mary Howitt was constitutionally fanciful and imaginative; and the fault of her early pictures is, that all her plants have too much flower. When, on the contrary, we look at The Sorrows of Rosalie, and The Undying One, and compare these with the more matured and subsequent productions of Mrs. Norton, it will be evident that her poetic powers have been greatly cherished and improved by education and culture, and by a careful study of the best models. In her tenderer moods she pitches on a key somewhat between Goldsmith and Rogers — with here the sunset glow of the first, and there the twilight softness of the latter: in her more passionate ones we have a reflex of Byron; but it is a reflex of the pathos, without the misanthropy of that great poet. Her ear for the modulation of verse is exquisite; and many of her lyrics and songs carry in them the characteristic of the ancient Douglases, being alike "tender and true." It must be owned, however, that individuality is not the most prominent feature of Mrs. Norton's poetry.